A week later, they were all eating dinner together, when a desperate knock came at the door. Zoe’s father went to the door, and spoke to someone out of sight of Zoe sitting at the table. She looked over her spoon as she sipped the vichyssoise her Mom had made. Her dad came back carrying a man in uniform with one arm around his shoulder. The uniformed man looked wan and frail. The mother got up and hurried to clear the table. Zoe backed away as the adults pushed everything off the table to make ready. Her father gave her a knowing glance which they exchanged with previous understanding: Do nothing.
“I barely got away.” said the man in uniform, who up close looked to be clad in the garb of a park ranger, though he reminded Zoe of a soldier from the Revolutionary war. The warm light of the chandelier above gave it that feel. Zoe’s eyes were transfixed on the man. He was middle aged and stared blankly at the light of the chandelier. She could see he was in a state of shock. The father and the mother talked with the man, and found out that this he had been attacked by a bear, and his bowels severely injured by the claws.
“Zoe,” shot out her father, “get some water.” She started for the door to go to the stream, but he said, “No use the water we’ve already boiled!” He said motioning to the refrigerator. She looked inside the opened refrigerator and located their carafe filled only half-way. The mother poured water on her own hands and did what they could to clean up the man. His breathing was shallow.
Zoe ached to help. Her mother was not picking it up, but her dad was. He kept looking from the man he was caring for to Zoe whose eyes remained glued to the poor man.
She got lost in a memory triggered by the sight of her father leaning over the man, but powerless to help. One time, little Zoe played with a little rocking horse her Dad had fashioned from with him of Micas polished. She tipped it over, and the side collision landed on the stone fireplace, and the head split off. It was the first moment when her world shattered, as children’s world’s often do. She didn’t know it, but her father’s outcry was not because it couldn’t be fixed, but because he felt what happened to it in his innermost being as if it were happening to him, because it had come out of him. She saw her dad seize with anguish for a moment that twisted his face, and then he looked at the girl’s face. Huge tears were just starting to gush forth, when he reached out and clasped her close to him in a comforting embrace. She did not mean to do it. He patted her on the back gently and rubbed her little head, and told her not to worry. He took the rocking horse with its shattered head into another room. She waited for him, turning over this new feeling of anguish that was not her own, but it was her dad’s. A short while later he came out of the room, and held wide the rocking horse remade. She ran up and gasped. Her daddy fixed it. He could fix anything.
But not this. She said to herself. I can fix this. Then she saw the man’s head tilt back unconscious. She could feel something was wrong inside him. Hope was waning, though she stood right there.
She begged her dad to do something. He did not look at her. Instead he said, “Be still.”
“Silence!” he cried, still staring at the man.
The urgency of the situation swelled inside her. She had to do it. And so, she stretched out her hand past the adults toward the man.
What happened next was shattering. Suddenly, Zoe’s arm was caught in a flash of flame, and the unconscious man faintly heard the outcry of Zoe in pain. The father’s hand had turned molten pale yellow like lava hot in the mantel, and had grabbed the wrist of his daughter whose hand burned under his touch. She sank to her knees as the burning continued. Her screams startled everyone, except the man on the table who was barely conscious. The mother screamed and yelled, “STOP! Stop it please!!”
The firelight died down, and a thud was heard as a sizzling, darkening orange bracelet and glove of rock thudded to the ground with Zoe’s tender living wrist cuffed inside it. The mother’s face was fixed in fright and amazement. The mother’s face burned with tears and anger at her husband.
Zoe was still on the floor sobbing and holding her arm now with a warm but solid black mitten. Her skin was still tender from the burn. Thus her father found her and stood above her. She looked up with eyes pleading and crushed as she looked through the strands of her hair. “Papa?”
Her dad’s heart softened til it broke, and he sank to his knees beside her. He reached out his hands to her, but she pulled her arm away and started away. He reached further to embrace her, but she pushed him away.
“How could you?”
“I had to protect you.” He said softly.
“What about him?” she cried pointing to the man on the table, “I was given this gift for a reason, and you . . . you punish me for using it?”
“You have to trust me. Sometimes we parents do things that don’t make sense. Please, you have given me your heart.”
“Well, maybe I was wrong.” She fumed, and then she passed briskly to the wall and took her black stone-gloved wrist, and lifted her arm with a back hand thrust and smashed it against the stone wall. It had the desired effect. Her father’s face was torn by that familiar anguish. Tears started down his cheek as he felt the house’s pain and the bracelet’s destruction within him, but more so, his daughter’s repulsion of the very one who brought her into this world.
She saw his reaction and blackly accused, “You care more about your own creations than you do about me.”
“You are the BEST thing that ever came from me!” Roared her father in a sudden burst.
“Well, I’m not you!” She said.
She screamed and stormed out and slammed the door, threw herself onto her bed, punched her pillow for a while, then sobbed. She felt both the shattering truth that she had broken her father’s heart, just as much as he had broken hers.